Giving thanks for the people, circumstances and opportunities in our lives is a necessary and often under-recognized component of wellness. Sharing loving sentiments and actions with others strengthens our sense of connection with the world and receiving this in return goes a long way in building our self-esteem. This is truly one of my favorite holidays and the meal that is shared…oh the meal… It is hands down my favorite of the year!
We all know how satisfying and stupefying the Thanksgiving menu can be, hence the almost guaranteed over indulgence. But many, myself included, may be underestimating how nutritionally potent this feast is. Here’s a brief breakdown of the basic items:
The headliner-Turkey is a wonderfully lean source of protein that the body digests relatively easily, unlike beef and pork. It provides a healthy supply of B vitamins and the amino acid L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan, with the aid of carbohydrates, increases brain serotonin levels and creates that calming sensation often experienced after the meal.
Cornbread stuffing or “dressing” as it’s called in my family has the makings of a genuine tonic. Cornmeal, especially when whole and un-milled, contains abundant amounts of an array of nutrients including fiber, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Some highlights include:
- B vitamins Niacin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid and B6. Niacin increases food utilization and reduces cholesterol. Pantothenic Acid (B5) is known as the “anti-stress vitamin”
- Antioxidant “Fat Pac” members Vitamin E and K to fight the signs of aging and aid calcium in strengthening our bones
- Minerals Iron for blood building, Magnesium for relaxation of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and Zinc and Selenium for immune system enhancement
Factor in the garlic, onions and peppers and you have a disease fighting power house. Allicin, found in both garlic and onions, is the active healing component that makes these herbs protective against ailments ranging from the common cold to cancer. Onions also contain the anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid Quercetin which makes for an effective and natural antihistamine. Bell peppers, especially red, contain phytonutrients that, through their ability to prevent blood clot formation, provide a wide range of health benefits including reduced heart attack and stroke risks.
Those sweet, sweet, Sweet Potatoes…each 3ounce potato contains over 19,000 IUs of Vitamin A (compared to the US RDA of 10,000 IUs) and over 11,000 mcgs of carotenoids for added protection against inflammatory diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Now on to the greens, and whether it be Collards, Mustards, Spinach, Cabbage or
Kale, all contain heaping amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber known to strengthen the body’s defenses against infections and viruses. Collards, cabbage, kale and other cruciferous vegetables also contain a unique chemical called Indole-3-carbinol that enhances DNA repair within the cells. It is thought to be specifically beneficial to cancers and diseases associated with hormonal abnormalities such as breast and prostate cancers and Lupus. Try first chopping or mincing and then steaming or stir frying these to bring out and preserve the most healing components of the greens.
And last but not least, the Cranberry Sauce! In addition to their widely known antioxidant potency, cranberries also have the unique ability to protect the urinary tract from bacterial infections. This mighty little berry helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract wall. Cranberry juice concentrate and cranberry herb are included in most total body cleansers for this reason.
Now of course, the fresher the ingredients, the more nutritious the dish, and preparation certainly matters. Many of the above health benefits can be lost with cooking methods that over process the food or use a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol containing oils.
Quick tip: choose extra virgin olive and or coconut oils when possible for added flavor, healthier fats and lower cholesterol levels.
I have my sister/friend/cousin K.G. to thank for this:
- first lightly blanching kale in salted boiling water
- then sauté in coconut oil
Absolutely delicious and vibrantly green!
Well folks that’s it for now, as I know the feasting will start soon. Eat up, enjoy and do so knowing that you’re not just indulging your palates but are also stacking your plates with some seriously potent nutrients.
Happy Thanksgiving and BeWell!